How-to: Synchronise your IE favorites between two Windows XP computers

Difficulty: 3

SyncI run multiple computers in my home and I also have one in the office. I often get frustrated that I don’t have the same favourites with me everywhere I go so I have come up with this method to synchronise my machines so that I have the same favourites with me, wherever I am and whichever machine I am on.

In this article I will use offline files to ensure that the favourites are the same on both machines. This method is not simple but it is the best solution I have found. This method does require minor registry hack and also removes network security from your favourites (not that security is all that important for favourites).

This solution has worked for me and run steadily without problems. If you are uncomfortable doing registry hacks, I believe your only options for syncing is to copy the files manually or to get a third-party application to look after your syncing needs. I prefer to stay away from little additional utilities if it is possible to achieve the same result without them.

ExclimationWith any method, I would strongly recommend you backup your favourites by starting up Internet Explorer, clicking on file menu and selecting “Import/export”. Follow through the wizard to export your favourites.

The “favorites” folder cannot be shared directly, so that other computers on the network can see them. That is what makes synchronising these your favourites so difficult. If you could share them, you could easily use SyncToy to make the folders the same on each computer, but as this is not possible, we need to setup a fairly complicated system.

This method will not work with firefox as firefox stores its favourites a different way.

What you need:

  • Two Windows XP machines running Internet Explorer 6 or 7

  • A network, pre configured

Define which computer will be the host of your Favourites

Before we begin you will need to define which computer of yours is the host as it is its job to hold the original copy of the favourites. I would recommend a desktop which is regularly on and probably the most powerful of your fleet unless you would like to run one as a dedicated server. Whichever you choose, the drain on this machine will be minimal.

Define which computer/computers will be receiving the Favourites

You are able to have one or more machines connecting to the host. I will refer to these machines as the recipient.

Sharing your “Favorites” on the host computer

By default, your “Favorites” folder is located on your C drive. The path to this is “C:\Documents and Settings\”Username”\Favorites”. In order for other machines to see this drive we must first share it so that the folder is available to the other computers to see it. As I said earlier in this article, you cannot share this folder directly so we will need to place it somewhere else. As everyone who uses my computer is happy to use the same favourites, I place mine in the root of the drive “C:\Favorites”

exclimationWe are removing much of the security for your favourites. If security is an issue for you, please investigate further. Please ensure that you have a backup of your “Favorites” before proceeding. I see this as low risk of something failing, even lesser of your favourites disappearing but you can never be too careful.

Please do the following on the host machine.

StartClick “Start”

 

 

FavcopyRight-Click “Favorites”

Select “Copy”

If you do not have a favorites link here, right click on the grey area and select properties.

Prop

Select the “Start menu” tab

Select “Customize”

Select the “Advanced” tab

Tick “Favorites Menu”

Alternatively, you can navigate through to “C:\Documents and Settings\’username’\Favorites” 

StartClick “Start”

 

 

MycompSelect “My Computer”

Go to your C: Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

FavpasteRight-click in white area.

Select Paste

 

You will now have a copy of your “Favorites” in the root of C:. We now need to share this folder.

As mentioned earlier, the next step opens your favorites up to users on your network. Whilst this is fine for home use, you may want to be careful trying such things in an office environment.

ShareselectRight-click on the favorites folder you pasted in the last step.

Select “Sharing and Security”

 

 

 

 

 

SharefavTick “Share this folder on the network”

Share name: Type “Favorites”

Tick “Allow network users to change my files” if you’re happy for the favourites to be changed by the recipient.

Select “OK”

 

You have now shared the newly created “Favorites” folder to other users on your network.

Redirecting your computer to use the new “favorites” folder

The final step on the host machine is to let Windows know where to find the new folder. The old folder will not be used after this step. Please make note of this change because if you want to change your computer back to defaults, this is one of the settings you will need to change.

We need to alter a key in the registry. To do this :

StartrunClick “Start”

Select “Run”

 

 

ReglaunchType “regedit”

Click “OK”

 

 

 

 

exclimationThis is good time to back up your registry, Go into the file menu and select export. The change we are making is a minor one but if you have a cat which walks on your keyboard, you may accidentally change something you didn’t want to.

You can either navigate through to these by clicking on folders just as you would in explorer or you can press F3 and do a search. There will be multiple similar entries. The bottom of the page will show you the full path you are at.

It is crucial that you check and double check these key names. Editing the key in “Shell Folders” as opposed to “User Shell Folders” will have no effect.

The following key we want to change is

\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Favorites

Regfav

Double click on the keys on the right and change the value to “C:\Favorites” for this key.

Editreg

Click “OK” and close Regedit.

Make note of this site address so that you can come back to it. Saving this site in your favorites will not work because your computer will direct to your new favorites folder once you restart your computer.

Restart your computer, you will not see results until you have done this.

FavpropselectYou can now ensure that this has worked by right clicking on your “Favorites” and selecting properties.

You should see location as “C:\” and the correct folder name as “Favorites”. The hand under the icon proves that it is shared.

Favc

You have now completed all tasks on the host machine.

Setting up the recipient machine.

There are 3 steps on the recipient machine to get this whole system up and running :

  1. Mapping to the folder from the host machine.
  2. Setting up offline files
  3. Registry hack to direct your computer to the new “favorites” folder.

Mapping your “Favorites” folder from the host machine.

There are many options for how to do this, that is why I am using the term “Mapping”. The method I am using does not require a physical map of the drive, you just need to locate it.

1networkplace select

Click “Start”

Select “My Network Places”

 

 

 

 

You should see your “Favorites on (Host Computer Name)” in your “My Network Places”. Take note of your “Host Computer Name”. If it has not shown up yet, press F5 to refresh the window. If it still does not show up, try navigating to it by searching your network.

Double click on it to open it. 

Setting up Offline Files

4makeavSelect the files and folders (Ctrl + A)

Select “Make Available Offline”

If you do not have this option, click on Tools, Select Folder options.

Go to the offline files tab

Tick “Enable Offline Files”

You should now see the blue and white arrows attaching themselves to your files and folder. This allows these files to be available to you when you are not attached to your host computer via the network.

The Registry Hack

This is very similar to the registry change you did on your host machine. We are changing the same key.

\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Favorites

The difference is that we need to change the value to the path of the shared folder on your Host Computer.

Regfav

To find the path to enter here, we need to refer back to your “Host Computer Name” which you took note of earlier, otherwise found at the end of your “Favorites” folder in your “My Network Places”

Use the path “\\Host computer name\Favorites”, in my case, the host computer name is Monica.

5regchange

Press “OK”

Close Regedit

Restart your computer.

That’s it, both your machines will both be using the same “Favorites” folder, allowing you to add a favourite and having it viewable instantly on both. When the machines are not connected by the network, they will both work individually. You are able to add new favourites and they will sync when you reconnect your computer to the network.

If you have multiple machines, you would follow the recipient steps on each of them to get each of them to sync.

I hope you have enjoyed this How-to and found it useful. Check out Inspectmygadget.com for more How-To’s.




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